Birth, death and survival: sources of political renewal in the work of Hannah Arendt and Virgil’s Aeneid.

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  • Author(s): Frost, Catherine
  • Source:
    Mortality. Nov2018, Vol. 23 Issue 4, p350-365. 16p.
  • Additional Information
    • Subject Terms:
    • Abstract:
      Does death provide a generative force in politics? The great theorist of political founding, Hannah Arendt, insisted that birth, not death, equipped us for the task of beginning, and pointed to Virgil’s Aeneid as a work that best understood this process. But the Aeneid is a work primarily concerned with sacrifice, suffering and death, and it highlights the losses that must be endured, the disorientation to be overcome, before renewal arrives. Reconsidering Arendt’s emphasis on action in the light of the themes of loss and despair in the Aeneid suggests that death cannot be definitively excluded from an Arendtian approach. Indeed, this element may lie close to the heart of her thinking. Virgil’s emphasis on the management of despair through prophecy suggests one reason Arendt might forego an emphasis on death, since accounts of founding, be they myth or theory, must first and foremost serve the needs of survival. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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